(#370) What’s Your B.M.I. (Bureaucratic Mass Index)?

June 25, 2017

Has your bureaucracy morphed into a soul-sucking and
resilience-retarding beast?

Bureaucracy catches a lot of heat. “The Bureaucracy.”  When something goes wrong….blame it on “The Bureaucracy.”  Of course, “The Bureaucracy” provides the structure. The people (the bureaucrats) make it move or stall. The organizational chart might tell the people where they fit in as a cog in the structure.  But those same people give life (or inertia) to the chart.

Anyone who has ever worked in or attempted to navigate through a bureaucracy may think of the words entrenched, glacial, and obstacles.  How does this happen? A short list includes ineffective leadership, poor hiring practices, rigidity, and an institutional culture that rewards non-risk-taking transactional interactions over transformative measures.

Before you can begin to unravel this Gordian knot of inflexible mindsets, you have to recognize the causes of organizational (structural, leadership, and followership) inefficiencies. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review listed seven warning signs that your bureaucracy has morphed into a soul-sucking and resilience-retarding beast.

  1. Bloat: too many managers, administrators, and management layers;
  2. Friction: too much busywork that slows down decision making;
  3. Insularity: too much time spent on internal issues;
  4. Disempowerment: too many constraints on autonomy;
  5. Risk Aversion: too many barriers to risk taking;
  6. Inertia: too many impediments to proactive change;
  7. Politics: too much energy devoted to gaining power and influence.”

The article says to take account of, what the authors call, the B.M.I.: “Bureaucracy Mass Index.”  A difficult task that takes concerted effort by insiders and customers alike.

The HBR articled asks, “How pervasive is bureaucracy in your organization? How much time and energy does it suck up? To what extent does it undermine resilience and innovation? Which processes are more trouble than they’re worth?”

The HBR list can (at least) provide a starting point for a conversation.  Just don’t let the conversation become one more stultifying exercise in bureaucratic futility.

More poignantly, do nothing and Pogo proves prophetic.


Video recommendation for the week.

Perhaps this young actress will help us listen more intently to the “Sh*t Bureaucrats Say.”


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.



For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#368) Fake, Illegitimate Or Incomplete Information?

June 11, 2017

Just because you find a lot of information does not mean
you have found accurate or credible information

If, as famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright claimed, “An expert is a man who stops thinking because he knows,” then can we say the same for a person who claims one source of information as the fount of all legitimacy and contrary accounts to be illegitimate or “fake”? Has she stopped discerning because she “knows” what is legitimate and what is fake?

More than five years ago, I shot a quick video (see below) outlining four basic considerations when considering information to address an issue or task?

  1. What information do you need for the task at hand?
  2. Where will you find that information?
  3. How will you evaluate the information you find for accuracy and legitimacy?
  4. How will you organize and use the information for your audience?

Can we grow as individuals if we filter what we read, hear, and see through one source (or a number of like-minded sources)?  Are we motivated to grow–or just “be right” even in the face of confounding information?

Do we care?

A friend shared two stories this week.  I doubt they are apocryphal.

  • A neighbor asked my friend where she got her news. My friend rattled off a list of seven or eight sources. Out of hand, the neighbor dismissed the entire list as thoroughly “illegitimate.” When asked what her source of information was, the neighbor mentioned one source. Just one source. It was, according to her, legitimate. End of story. (See numbers two and three, above.)
  • My friend has found the same situation in her college classroom.  No matter the topic,  two camps emerge. Diametrically opposed. Refusing to listen and discuss with the other. Each considering their source(s) of information legitimate and the others’ suspect at the least and fake at the worst.

Is this a sign of intellectual laziness? A lack of critical thinking? Or is this sort of thing nothing new—just magnified because everyone can have a social media platform where we surround ourselves with “likes” and “shares” and then block opposing viewpoints?  (I still remember my mother often warning me (more than fifty years ago) not to speak about politics or religion.) It does seem like today’s volume, as well as the personal vitriol, has been cranked up considerably.

I offered a suggestion to my friend.

  1. Pick two sources of news that generally disagree on issues and stances.
  2. Find one current news story on which both of these sources present a similar account of the issue or event.
  3. Print both stories without any attribution (nothing that would identify the sources).
  4. Ask your friend (or students) to identify the “illegitimate source” based solely on the content presented. If both stories are drawing the same conclusion then how can the argument hold that a particular source is always illegitimate?

Perhaps you could do it as well to at least start a rational conversation. Start with common ground and move from there.


Video recommendation for the week.

Just because you find information does not mean you have credible information.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.



For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#246) Are You Bitching or Are You Pitching?

February 8, 2015

Do you work (or live) with someone who endlessly pontificates,
grouses, grumbles, moans and laments?

One of my mentors taught me a valuable lesson near the beginning of my teaching career.  Dr. Veronica Valentine had a simple “rule” if anyone came to her with a complaint.  She would listen to your gripe AND expect you to propose a solution. At least, she wanted you to start a conversation about the next step.  I knew that I could voice objections without repercussions.  And I knew the concomitant expectation: Propose a solution.

Sounds so simple doesn’t it.

Image: David Castillo Dominici @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: David Castillo Dominici @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Perhaps you work (or live) with someone who endlessly pontificates, grouses, grumbles, moans and laments. Or maybe one of your co-workers is always the “philosopher” on every subject that comes up.  (At times the philosopher is nothing more than a complainer.) Is there ever a reasoned solution attached to the criticisms?  If not, other than spewing toxins into the air, what community or team good comes from all of the rumbling?

Video recommendation for the week:

Consider this the next time you or someone on your team wants to bitch for the sake of bitching without anything meaningful coming from it.  Demand that the bitching be accompanied with a bit of pitching.

Image: Meawpong3405@ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Meawpong3405@
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Instead of throwing out one bitch after another, here’s what could be pitched:

  • A proposed solution
  • A new perspective
  • A brainstorming session
  • A question-storming session
  • A questioning of assumptions
  • A search for more facts
  • An examination/self-introspection/reflection of the bitch itself (could be the person or the complaint).

Reasoned and well-thought out conflict can be healthy for a team. What starts as a complaint may lead to growth. If trust exists, the team can build on the problems.  A great leader knows how to foster this. Otherwise we have a bitch session.

So, for the coming week, if you find yourself (or co-workers) bitching make sure to encourage some well-meaning pitching.

Make it a great week. And H.T.R.B. as needed.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please share it (and any of the archived posts on this site) with friends and colleagues. You also can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page and join in–or start–a conversation (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli).  If you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment.

Check out my website (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

Information on my book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.

(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


#18 Crab Pot Mentality!

September 26, 2010

I learn so much from my students; constantly.  Last week was the latest example.  In class, we were watching a few selected scenes from the powerful and compelling movie Homeless to Harvard. The movie chronicles Liz Murray’s inspiring journey as she went from a drug-addicted dysfunctional family, to a foster care facility, to homeless, to Harvard. The true story provides real-life examples of concepts such as belief systems, values, goals, motivation, and locus of control.

One scene shows a confrontation between Liz and a teacher on one side, and one of Liz’s friends (Chris) from the streets.  Liz has just been told by her teacher that she has the highest grades in her school and, as a reward, she is being sent on an all-expenses paid trip to Boston. The purpose of the trip is to get Liz thinking about college. You can see it on Chris’s face: Liz is moving up, out, and about to leave her behind.  Rather than be happy for her friend, Chris lashes out and says “It’s all crap.” The teacher offers Chris the same chance but tells her she will have to work hard to get what Liz has accomplished. Chris responds with, “Not freakin’ interested.”

When we discussed this scene in class, I used the term “hater” for Chris. The students got the message and were ready to talk about it—as many of them have “haters” in their lives.  These are the people who will pull them down, dash their dreams, and/or sabotage their plans.  The “haters” want to hold the person back with questions like, “Who do you think you are?” Or “Do you think you’re better than me?”

When I used “hater” (which had been introduced to me by a student, also) this past week, one of my students said that she used “crab pot mentality” to describe the same thing.  She said when crabs are put into a cooking pot, they start to clamber up the side of the pot to escape. An interesting thing happens on their way to freedom: The crabs left behind reach up and pull the fleeing crabs back into the pot.  Rather than see anyone live for another day, the crabs appear to be content to all die.

What a powerful metaphor!  I did a quick Google search and found a number of references to “crab pot mentality.”  Here are just three:

Whatever you choose to call these people—haters, crabs, energy vampires, saboteurs, dysfunctional—they can kill a dream if we allow them into our world.  If you have run into these energy suckers, please share your strategies. What is your antidote to their poison?

 © Steve Piscitelli and Steve Piscitelli’s Blog, 2010.


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